Celebrating Your Stories, Cultivating a Community

Every year, the Confucius Institute U.S. Center recognizes ten outstanding Chinese language and culture students from across the United States for their outstanding dedication to Chinese language and cultural education. These People-to-People Award Honorees are selected through the CIUS Center’s annual essay contest, and this year’s collection of stories truly represents the value and impact of Chinese language and culture from a variety of perspectives.

These 10 stellar students truly represent the diversity found within Chinese language and culture education. While we are unable to celebrate in person at our annual National Honors Gala, this Honoree Celebration is an opportunity to gather virtually and celebrate the outstanding dedication of our honorees to US-China mutual understanding.

Thank you to friends and family of our honorees along with our community of Chinese language and culture educators, advocates, and supporters who participated!

Meet the 2020 Honorees

Shadasia Diaz Baez

Shadasia Diaz Baez is a senior at CUNY Medgar Evers College, pursuing a CUNY BA degree in International Business and Asian Studies. Shadasia had the opportunity to travel to and study in Shanghai, China at East China Normal University, where she studied international business and law and Communicative Chinese.

Alana Barry

Alana Barry is a junior double majoring in International Studies and East Asian Studies at Johns Hopkins University. She began studying Mandarin in seventh grade and in high school, she participated in the Chinese Bridge language competition. After graduation, she spent her gap year studying at Fudan University’s International Cultural Exchange School.

Lorna Bergner

Lorna Bergner is a retired schoolteacher and business manager. She has travelled and lived in many countries and at 65 years of age, she visited China, became enchanted with its people and culture, and eventually spent 11 years living and working in Chongqing.

David Fuller

David Fuller is a recent graduate from Alfred University. He enjoys reading and has played Guzheng since College where he learned the instrument under the tutelage of Professor Wu Zhongbei (Daisy Wu). David is currently starting his own tutoring business in Tennessee and is considering moving to China or Russia someday.

Ryan Hale

Ryan Hale is a Senior at the University at Albany, where he studies Finance and Business Analytics. Ryan is heavily involved in assisting with events held by the UAlbany Confucius Institute. Ryan has a few hobbies he is very passionate about, one of which is language learning.

Carly Beth Hand

Carly Beth is a pianist, songwriter, and singer from New York. While in college, a friend introduced her to live-streaming to China, so she quickly began teaching herself Chinese and Chinese songs. She is currently working on a Chinese album, and posting videos on 抖音 (DouYin), in addition to continuing her Chinese language studies.

Grace Nwankwo

Grace Nwankwo is a rising senior at Lindblom Math and Science Academy in Chicago, IL. When she graduates, Grace will have taken all six years of Chinese, including AP Chinese. Grace is actively involved in her school’s Chinese learning community. She is secretary of the National Chinese Honors Society, is a teacher's assistant, and long-term member of the Chinese Culture and Service Colloquium.

Juliet Petrus

Juliet Petrus is an American and Italian professional opera singer born currently based in London, UK. She was first exposed to Chinese language, culture, and music in 2011 as a participant in the iSING! Beijing program. She received a Confucius Institute Scholarship in 2014 to attend Tongji University in Shanghai where she began to specialize in contemporary Chinese vocal literature.

Ellen Saksena

Ellen Saksena is a Junior at Lincoln East High School, Nebraska and she has been studying Chinese for five years. She was born in Boston, MA, and moved to Lincoln, NE for high school. She loves testing her language capabilities and enjoys conversing with her native Chinese speaking peers. Ellen hopes to continue studying Chinese at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln this fall.

Raven Witherspoon

Raven Witherspoon is a rising senior at Virginia Commonwealth University. She is majoring in Physics with minors in International Social Justice, Political Science, and Mathematics. She began learning Chinese in sixth grade but ended her studies in high school. Raven was overjoyed to renew her Chinese studies as a junior in college at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA). The opportunity to participate in a penpal program between students at NOVA and Xingtai Polytechnical College in Hebei, China has been among Raven's most meaningful Chinese language experiences.